New Sunnen bore machining system is the "weapon of choice" for precision paintball marker barrels
Gilbert, Arizona, USA –With its
roots in forestry and agriculture, paintball has evolved from a means to mark
trees and cattle to an organized team sport played by millions of people in
more than 60 countries worldwide.
Players now compete in paintball tournaments where $10K-plus purses are
common. As the sport has evolved, so too
has the equipment. Manufacturers now
specialize in the production of aftermarket parts for high-performance
paintball guns - called "markers" by those who play the game.
such equipment manufacturer is Mesa Custom Machining, which is better known as
Custom Products or CP to paintball aficionados.
Mesa Custom Machining owner Dale Carpenter has always had his own
products to sell, along with machine time.
Under the Custom Products banner, Carpenter has enjoyed great success
with performance go-cart parts and high-tech yo-yos. In the last decade, Custom Products has
become a "big gun" in the world of paintball, employing 30 people at
its 15,000 square-foot facility.
uses a Sunnen SV-1000 Series vertical honing machine to create a competitive
advantage on and off the paintball playing field, producing one and two-piece
marker barrels made to precise specifications for pro-level paintball
surface finish and diameter of a paintball marker barrel are key components in
its performance, as are the barrel's straightness and roundness, according to
Carpenter. Shooters want the paintball
to fit as perfectly as possible down the entire length of the bore. However, paintballs are non-uniform due to
their composition – essentially a large, round "gel capsule" filled
with paint. "Paintballs are
somewhat 'squishy' and their dimensions can vary based on atmospheric
conditions, such as temperature and humidity," says Carpenter. "This, in turn, affects how the ball
travels through the barrel, so tournament players compensate by having multiple
barrels, each with a few thousandths of an inch difference in diameter."
players may have 8-10 different barrels to accommodate inconsistencies in the
dimensions of their ammunition. That's
where the SV-1000 honing system has earned a reputation as the weapon of choice
for quick production of single pieces or lots of hundreds.
manufactures one-piece and two-piece barrels in five diameters - 0.682",
0.685", 0.689", 0.693" and 0.696" - to fit the various
makes of paintball markers. While
one-piece and two-piece barrels are almost equal in performance, the advantage
of a two-piece barrel is that the ball is only in contact with the barrel for
the first 5.5", known as the control bore, resulting in less total
friction and less use of valuable compressed air. Sometimes the difference in winning and
losing a tournament is the last 20 or so shots.
Less air per shot equals more shots and a greater chance for victory.
the different bore sizes and barrel lengths for the various makes of markers,
we have more than 1000 different part numbers for barrels available from our
inventory," says Carpenter. While
CP typically produces lots of several hundred barrels, the CNC hone gives it
the flexibility to provide quick turnaround and meet customer needs. "Quick
shipping is a big issue for us," says Carpenter. "The CNC honing
system lets us knock out a special barrel in minutes if we have to. We save a program for every part by name,
length, and bore size. If we get an
order for a part that we don't have on the shelf and we need right away, we can
drop an un-honed part into the machine and in a couple of minutes I've got one
ready to go. I can have it polished,
sent out for overnight anodizing and out the door the next day."
success of CP in manufacturing precision aftermarket paintball marker barrels
was not overnight. "We started with
only 12" barrels and they go to 16"," says Carpenter. "Initially, we struggled to get the bore
size and finish produced on a consistent basis.
I never realized how much science is in this."
uses a Citizen screw machine to manufacture blank barrels, starting with
precision tubing at 1" OD. The
tubing is extruded using dies Carpenter had made to order. The Citizen does all the outside work from
porting to cut off. It goes from there
to the hone.
More important from a cost and
productivity standpoint, this single MMT tool is capable of sizing the entire
range of bore diameters we produce."
added capacity of the CNC machine enables CP to supply barrels to paintball
marker OEM's, retailers, and its own retail operation
(www.customproducts.us). In addition,
the company has a traveling staff that attends paintball tournaments with a
53-foot Volvo tractor trailer conducting on-site sales of their barrels,
regulators and other marker accessories.
CP also sponsors several pro paintball teams, which helps increase brand
awareness with the target market.
have very limited job shop work now," Carpenter says. "Our own product line takes most of our
capacity. We have doubled our sales
since 1996, with only a small percent of it now as job shop work."
selling high-tech yo-yos, to speed parts for go-carts to paintball marker
barrels, Carpenter will always be on the lookout for the next niche to fill …
and his next big idea.